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Christmas Bird Count

Christmas Bird Count

The National Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is an early-winter bird census, where thousands of citizen scientists across the US, Canada and many countries in the Western Hemisphere, go out over a 24 hour period to count birds.

Count volunteers follow specified routes through a designated 24-kilometer diameter circle, counting every bird they see or hear all day. It’s not just a species tally—all birds are counted all day, giving an indication of the total number of birds in the circle that day. All CBC’s are conducted in the period from December 14 to January 5 each season, and each count is conducted in one calendar day.

The data collected by observers over the past century allow researchers, conservation biologists and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. When combined with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, it provides a picture of how the continent's bird populations have changed in time and space over the past hundred years.

Project Details

  • PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Gary Langham, chief scientist
  • SCIENTIST AFFILIATION: National Audobon Society
  • DATES: Wednesday, December 14, 2011 - Thursday, January 5, 2012
  • PROJECT TYPE: Observation
  • COST: Less than $20
  • GRADE LEVEL: All Ages
  • TIME COMMITMENT: More than 5 hours
  • HOW TO JOIN:

    To find the date of a Christmas Bird Count near you and/or to register for a count click here.

    There is a $5 fee to participate in the CBC for all field participants aged 19 or older. Please see our CBC FAQs to learn more. Feeder watchers do not need to pay the fee, and all observers 18 and under may count for free. These fees fund the program and help to cover the costs of generating materials for Compilers, producing an annual CBC summary issue, and maintaining the CBC Web site and database.

    Beginning in late fall of each year, you can visit the Christmas Bird Count Get Involved Web page to search for a circle near you. Circles will be listed with upcoming count dates as compilers enter them. Please check back if you do not see a count date listed for your circle of interest.

See more projects in Less than $20ObservationAll Ages.

What Is Citizen Science?

Research often involves teams of scientists collaborating across continents. Now, using the power of the Internet, non-specialists are participating, too. Citizen Science falls into many categories. A pioneering project was SETI@Home, which has harnessed the idle computing time of millions of participants in the search for extraterrestrial life. Citizen scientists also act as volunteer classifiers of heavenly objects, such as in Galaxy Zoo. They make observations of the natural world, as in The Great Sunflower Project. And they even solve puzzles to design proteins, such as FoldIt. We'll add projects regularly—and please tell us about others you like as well.

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